Beyond catalyzing changes in what we do, technology affects how we
think. The Internet has emerged as a new context for self-exploration and
social encounter; psychopharmacology, robotics, nanotechnology, genetic
engineering, biotechnology, and artificial intelligence -- all are technologies that raise fundamental questions about selfhood,
identity, community, and what it means to be human.
With the support of the Mitchell Kapor Foundation, the MIT Initiative
on Technology and Self was founded in 2001 by Sherry Turkle, Abby Rockefeller Mauzé Professor of the Social Studies
of Science and Technology. The Initiative's goal is to be a center for research and reflection on the subjective side of technology and to raise the level of public discourse
on the social and psychological dimensions of technological change.
From 2001-2004 the Initiative hosted working groups and symposia and was home to foundation-sponsored research projects that led to the publication of four books on technology and self with the MIT Press:
• Evocative Objects: Things We Think With
• Falling for Science: Objects in Mind
• The Inner History of Devices
• Simulation and Its Discontents
Each of these books, edited and with introductory essays by Sherry Turkle, reflects an aspect of the Initiative's program. Evocative Objects is an outgrowth of a seminar series by the same name; Falling for Science speaks to issues addressed by a Spencer Foundation grant on adolescence, technology, and identity; The Inner History of Devices draws on the research themes of the range of Initiative working groups and on research sponsored by an Intel Corporation grant on "Nurturant Technologies"; Simulation and its Discontents reports on a National Science Foundation study of simulation and professional identity.
Professor Turkle's most recent book is
Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other,
published by Basic Books in January 2011.
Currently, Initiative focus is on a teaching program in the fall and spring semesters and two research projects ("Cell Phones" and "Audible Identities").